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The wild places I love: an interview with Lynn Cameron

Updated: Aug 16, 2019

Tell us something about who you are, where you live, and your profession:

I am Lynn Cameron.  I grew up on a farm in West Virginia and now live on a small farm in Rockingham County, Virginia, where my husband and I keep several llamas.  I am enjoying retirement after working 30 years as a reference librarian at James Madison University. When I say I'm enjoying retirement, I don't mean I'm sitting in a rocking chair.  For the past 30 years, both during my work life and since retiring, I have been advocating for protection of special places in the George Washington National Forest. I have focused much of my effort over the past 20 years on a proposal for Congressional designation of a 90,000-acre Shenandoah Mountain National Scenic Area with four embedded Wilderness areas.


What is your relationship to the Appalachian Trail?

When I moved to the Shenandoah Valley in 1981, one of my first goals was to hike segments of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park.  It seemed like a good place to start exploring the the Blue Ridge, My husband and I hiked the AT and most of the side trails in Shenandoah National Park . We began backpacking and found this even more exciting. We branched out and explored some of  West Virginia's beautiful Wilderness areas, like Cranberry, Dolly Sods, and Otter Creek. Our focus then was on hiking and backpacking, but when we joined PATC-Southern Shenandoah Valley Chapter, we started going on club work-trips on the AT. The president of our chapter suggested my husband and I become trail overseers for a section.  Our son had just graduated from high school and was headed to college. It seemed like the perfect time to take on a new responsibility. We adopted the section from Sawmill Run Overlook to Turk Mountain Parking. That was 30 years ago, and we are still maintaining the same section. After digging out 58 waterbars four times a year and removing blowdowns, we feel like we own it!


What do you most value about spending time outdoors?

When I was younger, I was interested in hiking as many miles of trail as I could to explore the mountains, test my fitness, and experience adventure, I later began to take a closer look at what was along the trail - wildflowers, fungi, birds, ferns, salamanders, geology, and so much more.  I fell in love with the natural beauty and biodiversity of the forests in our area, and that is what is most important to me now. The more I grew to appreciate these things, the more I felt called to advocate for protection of special areas, especially through Wilderness and National Scenic Area designation.  I have continued to enjoy stewardship of the AT through maintaining our section, but I have expanded my interest to maintaining trails on Shenandoah Mountain in the George Washington National Forest. Hiking and trail work have always been good stress reducers for me, but they do more than that. These activities recharge my batteries and give my life meaning.  There is absolutely nothing human-made that inspires me as much as being in wild nature. Since I hike on trails, I like to give back and take care of them. It feels good to remove blowdowns and clip back overgrown vegetation. After a day's work I can see the fruits of my labor. It's very satisfying to hike back to the car and see all that we accomplished.

What is your intention or focus for your time outdoors?

When I am hiking, I like to take photographs and use them in my advocacy work. I have a strong desire to keep learning more about the wild places I love, and there will always be more to learn.


What are your hopes or aspirations for the AT and other trails? What changes are you working toward?

One thing I really want to see is more people of all ages enjoying the outdoors and experiencing the enrichment that I have. My time outdoors has certainly contributed to my quality of life and made my life more meaningful.   I try to engage people in experiencing the natural world and in being good stewards of it, whether maintaining trails or advocating for protection of special places. I do believe we would all be happier and healthier and have a deeper sense of peace if we spent more time outdoors. As I grow older, my hikes may get shorter, but I can still enjoy wild nature and continue learning about the natural world.


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